Photo courtesy Antti Rahko.

Antti Rahko just needed something to keep him occupied in his retirement years. While most recent Floridian transplants take up golf or maybe golf with the occasional afternoon of golf, the Finnish transplant decided instead to build one of the world’s most well-known art cars, the Finnjet, which he’s now put up for sale.

Not like he had that goal in mind right away. Rather, following his retirement in 1984, he began amassing chrome pieces and other shiny bits—mirrors, lights, bumpers, more lights, more mirrors—from trips to junkyards. Not until 2000 or so did he actually build a rig on which to install all those parts and pieces: a combination of two Eighties Mercedes-Benz W123 station wagons and a 1962 Imperial front end placed atop a tri-axle chassis with a dually axle in the center of the car and a Chevrolet truck front axle mounted at the rear, steering opposite the front wheels. A Mercedes-Benz turbodiesel engine powers the 29-foot laden limousine.

Inside, Rahko fitted the Finnjet—which he named after a famous Finnish turbine-powered ferry—with a microwave, freezer, television, two air-conditioning units and a functional sauna, all fed by three batteries and three alternators. But it’s the exterior of the Finnjet that attracts the most attention, with parts from an estimated 40 different cars, 36 mirrors, 86 lamps, various turbine housings, wings, chrome bumpers, strakes, hubcaps, a space shuttle and a continental kit for good measure.

For his efforts, Rahko has won first place in the Houston Art Car Parade—perhaps the world’s largest art car event—three times, but he built it to drive rather than show, and he’s reported mileage in the mid-20s thanks to the turodiesel. He’s also been invited to show it overseas at the Essen Motor Show a couple years back.

While he did list the Finnjet for sale about five years ago for $950,000; he has since lowered the asking price to $100,000 in an ad for the car that appears in the July 2015 issue of Hemmings Motor News.

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Ron’s Car Care Facelift

CarCareBefore1Hope that you enjoy the visual improvements that we’ve made on the shop exterior.  It started with having it re-stuccoed last fall before cold weather set in. I was finally able to repaint the trim this past weekend due to the unusually mild temperatures here. The door banner idea is another creative project of Richard Birnie design. A group of us in Yuma have been in the process of trying to convince city council to renovate/revitalize/beautify the downtown Main St. business district, in conjunction with the water main replacement/ street paving core project that is supposed to take place this coming summer. One idea was to create visual interest by the utilization of art installations in blank windows, etc in the downtown area to make the area more unique and interesting. I mentioned to Rich that maybe some garage scenes painted on a couple of boarded up windows in the back building would be cool. Well let me tell you, he took that idea and ran with it! Without my knowledge, he came up with the idea of the garage door banners. Brilliant!! He had these fabricated and presented them to me for Christmas. What an awesome gift! Thank you!!!CarCareAfter5CarCareAfter1

mechanics as hackers- reblogged

Mechanics as Hackers

from Hemmings Motor News
December, 2012 – Daniel Strohl

There’s a joy in taking things apart.
Too much of our mechanical and electrical world operates out of sight and out of mind from our everyday lives. It churns along behind blank panels and under aesthetically neutral covers, ticking away, shuttling electrons, revealing little of what it does until the day things go awry, typically leaving us befuddled as to why.
Getting under those covers, whether before or after that kerblooie moment, may sometimes feel illicit–especially when the thing you’re trying to take apart is held together with security screws–but it helps empower us, the consumers, by allowing us to better understand how these things work and by allowing us to repair and modify them as necessary, rather than replace them whenever they fail.
To anybody who’s ever owned an old car, I’m just stating the obvious here. Cars have hoods for a reason. We’d never send a car to the junkyard just because the starter failed. And that makes us hackers.
Now, understand that the term “hacker” has been used incorrectly by popular culture and the media over the last couple of decades. It does not refer to criminals who break into computer systems with nefarious motives; rather, it refers to the inquisitive among us, the tinkerers and the mad scientists and the mechanics, those of us not content with simply accepting planned obsolescence or the off-the-shelf products forced on us by a consumption-oriented society.
More recently, the hacker subculture has found both a philosophical center and widespread acceptance as the Maker movement, embracing a diverse array of hobbies–electronics, crafts, woodworking, robotics, you name it–in an effort to get regular people working with their hands and minds to invent and create things. And there’s plenty that we automotive hobbyists can learn from the Maker movement.
First off, the Maker movement is a very egalitarian and (little-d) democratic one, so it not only celebrates the amateur (which is a good thing–see “Sound of Speed,” HMN November 2011), but it also embraces open-source thinking: sharing solutions to problems that would normally hinder beginners from getting involved.
One development that has grown out of this philosophy is the hackerspace, a physical place where Makers can gather to share ideas, to pool resources, to work on their personal projects using tools that belong to the hackerspace (who wouldn’t love access to a waterjet cutter or a CNC machine?), and, most importantly, to join a community of like-minded enthusiasts. A company called TechShop has actually built a number of these spaces already, any of which would be well suited to car guys working on custom projects, and military members and veterans are no doubt familiar with the on-base hobby shops they could use for repairing their cars. An enterprising gearhead would do well to establish a hackerspace for car guys, either for profit or simply for the communal aspect.
The Maker movement has also introduced a market for 3D printers, which once cost six figures and were used primarily by manufacturers for rapid prototyping. Now, with hobbyist models hitting the marketplace for as little as $1,000 to $1,500, some old-car enthusiasts are pointing out how well suited 3D printers (particularly when paired with 3D scanners) are for replicating obsolete parts necessary to get old cars back on the road again. For the past three years, Jay Leno has been experimenting with 3D printers and scanners for just that purpose, and we’re hearing of high-end restoration shops looking into the technology. It won’t replace, say, a forged piston, but the technology is surprisingly capable.
Of course, it takes some familiarity with CAD and mechanical processes to get the most out of 3D printing, and the Maker movement has done a good job promoting technological literacy, inspiring budding Makers to take up CAD, welding, computer programming, acid etching and a thousand other skills. It wouldn’t hurt us old-car guys to add to our repertoires as the Makers so nimbly do.
Most importantly, though, the Maker movement–perfectly encapsulated by the slogan “If you can’t open it, you don’t really own it”–shows us that it’s not at all illicit to reconnect with the devices and the automobiles that we live with, that it’s okay to open them up, take them apart, and get to understand them a little better.

This article originally appeared in the December, 2012 issue of Hemmings Motor News.


IMG_20130408_111425 IMG_20130408_111506“Irene” is another addition to the family this spring.   Purchased new in 1976 by a regular customer at the shop, this Chrysler Newport Custom Coupe has racked up only 39k miles since new and has had only the best of care, including being housed in a heated garage.  The owner was, let me say, a bit eccentric and quite fussy. She and her husband farmed, and never had any children, so everything they owned was gently used and cared for.  After her passing, all of her household goods and vehicles were put up for auction.  I had no intention of purchasing this, but Rich kept after me to go to the auction “just to see what it brings”.  Of course one thing leads to another, and I became the second owner.  Along with the car came the buyers order from the dealer in Sterling.  They ordered the car in January of 1976 and took delivery the following March.  An interesting sidebar to the story is that they traded in a 1960 Oldsmobile 98 hardtop with only 45k miles.  I remember that car well, as my grandmother lived across the street from them and I still have this picture in my memory of that car sitting in their driveway.  It was a copper color that was popular at that time.  Wish I would have been old and wise enough to not let that one get away!

I have serviced the Chrysler since it was new, and was always intrigued by the unusual color.  Officially, it’s called Saddle Tan, but I always referred to it as “pumpkin”.  Others thought it was “apricot”.  Whichever, it’s definitely unusual….   The padded vinyl roof is Chestnut in color, and the interior is Parchment.   It has all of the obligatory power options, tilt/telescope steering column and an 8 track tape player.  It is in showroom condition and rides and drives as it did when new.

1923 Model TT Ford

ford TT (6)This truck has been a guest at the shop this past winter, and got tended to as my regular work schedule permitted..   It’s a 1923 Model TT Ford closed cab truck.  Passenger vehicles were designated as a T, but trucks were identified as the TT’s.  Powertrains were the same in all of them-  L-head 4 cylinders that produced about 20 horsepower coupled to an innovative planetary 2 speed transmission.  A heavy duty worm drive differential in the TT models along with heavy duty rear springs, axles, larger rear wheels and tires made it capable of heavy loads.  I was told that it hadn’t run in 40 years or so.  The tires had dry rotted, and mice had been living in it.  The good news was that it had been inside all of those years.   Most of the fabric insulation on the wiring was gone due to mice and the ravages of time, so all of the wiring was replaced, and rebuilt ignition coils were installed.  With a new battery and fresh gas in the tank, the old TT came to life. It even ran on the magneto after starting!

The earliest Model T’s had no generator or electric starter.  They used a “hotshot” battery that had to be recharged periodically, and cranked by hand.  Later production added a generator to recharge the battery.  Eventually an electric starter was optional and became standard equipment by the end of production.   This truck has a generator, but no electric starter, so it has to be cranked by hand.  The ignition switch is turned to the left, which allows the battery to energize the coils so it will start at the low rpm cranking speeds.  After it starts the switch is turned to the right- past the off position- to connect the magneto (which is built into the flywheel) to power the coils.  Spark advance and throttle are controlled by levers on the steering column, and fuel mixture is controlled by a turning a rod on the passenger side of the dash that’s connected to the carburetor.  Driving an old Ford required lots of driver input and active participation!  Then there was the matter of getting it to move.  A lever coming up through the floor between your left leg and the door was the parking brake/neutral/high gear control.  Three foot pedals were L-R:   low gear, reverse, and brake.  It seems a little daunting at first, but with a little instruction and practice, it becomes second nature.

Other than vacuuming and cleaning the glass, I tried to leave as much “patina” on it as possible.  (funny how we used to call it dirt not too long ago).   The old truck wears it well, and with all of its’ warts and battle scars, it looks just right with it.

ford TT (7)ford TT (12) 23tt (2) ford TT (10) ford TT (9) ford TT (3)